Mitsubishi Silica Sand Mine Halted on Tropical Cyclone Damage

Production at Mitsubishi Corp.’s Cape Flattery, one of the world’s biggest silica sand mines, will be halted for weeks and shipments delayed after Tropical Cyclone Ita buffeted Australia’s Queensland state.

“There was damage to power lines, which are down, to other equipment and to windows which were blown out,” Cape Flattery Silica Mines Pty.’s Chief Financial Officer Sumant Narula said today by phone from Cairns. “We’ve dodged a bullet really. The initial assessment is a lot better than we anticipated.”

Cape Flattery is one the world’s biggest producers of the material used to make glass for flat-screen TVs to vehicle windshields, according to Mitsubishi’s website.

Winds lifted away a mesh walkway at the site’s wharf, said Narula, who yesterday visited the mine located about 220 kilometers (137 miles) north of Cairns. “The main issue is that we’ll have some shipping delayed,” he said.

Miners to fruit growers are assessing damage after Ita made landfall above Cairns on April 11 as a Category 4 cyclone, the second-most intense on the rankings scale, ripping roofs from buildings and felling power lines. Ita, the strongest storm to hit the Queensland coast since 2011, affected about 10 million tons of sugar cane and about 5 percent of banana crops in growing regions in the state’s north, according to producers’ groups.

The Mitsubishi unit, which produces about 2 million metric tons of silica sand a year, exports to customers in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China, according to Narula.

Output may resume in “a couple in of weeks, but we’ve not had a chance to assess that completely,” Narula said. “As far as annual production goes, we’ll be able to catch that up.”

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